People who buy condos, do so for a variety of reasons. Some choose for the amenities, some for a maintenance-free lifestyle, and others for an investment. But few take into consideration what the By-Laws and Common Element Rules state. So it’s not surprising that some do not abide by the rules. Some owners are simply not aware, while others view them as only guidelines with a certain flexibility.
Rules are intended, after all, to ensure a high quality of enjoyment for all and to preserve property values. Rules govern where you can park your car, what pets are allowed on the property, and where garbage is disposed of. Rules can be interpreted in different ways by various owners and their guests. So, enforcing rules can sometimes be a challenge.
The Board of Directors (elected owners themselves) manage the condo corporation and has the responsibility to represent the needs and interests of all owners. The Board makes all of the management decisions. And the Board has the duty to ensure the New Brunswick Condominium Property Act, the Declaration, the By-Law, and the Common Element Rules are enforced. They must also ensure that local By-Laws are adhered to. So the Board of Directors is well within its right to enforce the rules. In fact it is their responsibility to enforce all of the the rules governing the condominium corporation.
Rule infractions cause complaints for the Board to handle. And handle, they must. Enforcement of rules is not a popular role for most Boards. But with a consistent and fair approach, it can become easier. The key, is for the Board to establish a strategy to deal with enforcing rule compliance. Consider some of the following tips:
- Review your governing documents to know exactly what your rules and authority are.
- Review local By-Laws (Parking, Animal control, Fire Safety, Municipal By-Laws). Having support for your Common Element Rules is useful.
- To ensure the accuracy of complaints – insist all complaints be detailed in writing and include the date and signature of the complainant.
- Consider the facts, carefully – listen to both sides, whenever possible.
- Establish a protocol for dealing with rule-breakers:
1) verbal warning – friendly but firm, keeping in mind that most problems are resolved at this point
2) written warning – the importance of keeping records is vital, (copy & paste the Rule into the letter)
3) additional written warning (an option)
4) letter issued by Corporation’s lawyer – to enforce the legal authority of the Board’s actions
5) action of written warnings (assess fees, register a lien, arbitration) – be consistent, stick to deadlines
6) register a lien against the unit – Section 46 of the NB Condominium Property Act
7) Arbitration – Section 59 of the NB Condominium Property Act or litigation – if all else fails
- Every letter sent to the owner causing the infraction should include a citation of the By-Law or Common Element Rule that was broken; what the Board requires for the situation to be corrected; and what the consequences will be if the situation is not corrected.
- Be sure all correspondence is signed by an authorized Board Member and dated.
- Keep copies of all documentation, including any follow up to the situation.
Anything that helps inform owners will go a long way to gaining acceptance. Once a strategy for dealing with rule enforcement has been established, the Board needs to communicate it to the owners. Meeting with new owners and reviewing the Common Element Rules can be an effective way to introduce new residents to the condo. An article in your newsletter, explaining the policy and the rationale is an effective way to communicate. Holding an information session to explain the policy is also helpful. This gives the Board an opportunity to answer questions and dispel misunderstandings. But consistent and fair handling of rule enforcement will be the Board’s best ally.